What Are Chicory Greens and How Do You Cook With Them?

Get to know these midwinter greens.

Bracing and beautiful, bitter and earthy, midwinter greens (and reds and pinks) are what a body craves right about now. When the ground's still too cool for gardening and you're hungry for spring, cool-season chicories perk up your palate and your plate.

What Are Chicory Greens?

Frisée, curly endive, Belgian endive, escarole, and radicchio are related to common chicory and often referred to as chicories. Part of the genus Cichorium and the plant family that includes dandelions and sunflowers, these hearty and slightly bitter greens are typically planted as cool-weather crops in late fall and harvested into early spring. You often can sub one for another in recipes, though there are flavor and texture differences.

Types of Chicory Greens

Frisée/Curly Endive

frisee also known as curly endive
Meredith

When curly endive (on-DEEV) is harvested young, it's called frisée (friz-AY), "curly" in French. Its frilly pale green outer leaves and sweeter soft yellow inner leaves have a slightly bitter finish. Frisée is more delicate in both texture and flavor than other chicories and, thus, well suited to salads. More mature curly endive has a stronger flavor and a tougher texture that withstands heat and benefits from wilting under a warm dressing.

Belgian Endive

Sweet with just a hint of bitterness, Belgian endive is a bonus plant: a second growth from the roots of already harvested curly endive or other chicories. Forced to sprout in cool, dark conditions (either indoors or in fields under sand to keep out the light), it emerges as a tight bud of pale yellow-white leaves. Red Belgian endive is similar, a forced second growth from radicchio.

Escarole

escarole
Meredith

More wavy than curly, escarole looks a bit more like lettuce than other chicories. Its wide white stems sport large, ruffled green leaves, sometimes tipped with red. The stems are mild enough to chop and enjoy raw. The bitter, peppery leaves go from slightly leathery to pleasantly chewy in soups or braises.

Radicchio

cross section of radicchio
Meredith

This red chicory, also sometimes called Italian chicory, has purple-red leaves with white veins and is sometimes mistaken for a tiny head of red cabbage. It grows in small, tight heads, but its leaves are thinner and more tender than cabbage. Beneath its bitterness, there's a lot of natural sweetness, too, making it enjoyable raw in salads or grilled or roasted.

Selecting and Storing Chicories

Choose crisp, unwilted greens without any browning. Generally, store them in the crisper, as you would other greens, up to 1 week. Rinse well with cold water just before using. To keep frisée even fresher, rinse it in cold water, drain well, roll up in paper towels, and store in a plastic bag in the crisper.

winter chicory greens: escarole, radicchio, red Belgian endive, Belgian endive, frisee.
Kim Cornelison

Good-For-You Greens

Nutrition varies by type, but most cool-season greens supply fiber along with vitamins and minerals (including vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, manganese, copper, and iron) that are associated with strong bones; healthy metabolism; and brain, heart, and gut health. Endives, both curly and Belgian, also are good sources of folate.

Recipes to Try

Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Chicory Salad

salad of blue cheese, walnuts, endive, and radicchio on a platter
Kim Cornelison

"If you've been looking at endive and radicchio in the stores for years but never bought any because you thought you just wouldn't like it, I'm here to tell you, you probably do — especially in a salad like this. When chicory is combined with a sweet and tangy mustard vinaigrette, mixed with toasted, crunchy nuts, and wonderfully rich, subtly salty blue cheese, it all makes perfect sense." —Chef John

Midwinter Greens Tonic

three tall glasses of midwinter greens blended into healthy drinks garnished with celery stalks
Kim Cornelison

Prefer to drink your greens? Try them in this easy blender tonic with apple, honey, ginger, and lemon — no juicer required! For more fiber, skip the straining. Garnish with celery and lemon curls.

Greens and Beans

bowl of Greens and Beans recipe garnished with grated cheese and pepper flakes
Kim Cornelison

This is GinaLovesFood's take on an Italian and Italian-American favorite, scaola e fagioli (literally: escarole and beans). Drizze on a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve with crusty Italian bread for a satisfying, veggie-forward meal, or enjoy as a side dish with roasted meats or pasta.

Belgian Endive au Gratin

baking dish of Belgian Endive au Gratin
Kim Cornelison

Belgian endives are often pulled apart before eating, their petal-like leaves used as vessels for herbed cheese or tossed in salads. Here, they're treated more like artichoke hearts or hearts of palm — whole heads wrapped in ham and nestled beneath a blanket of béchamel.

California Italian Wedding Soup

bowl of California Italian Wedding Soup with crusty bread
Kim Cornelison

Fresh basil and grated lemon zest freshen this quick and satisfying, greens-laced soup. The meatballs cook right in the broth.

Frisée Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

dishes of frisee salad with hot bacon dressing
Kim Cornelison

A sweet-tangy bacon dressing, poured on hot, gently wilts and perfectly balances slightly bitter frisée.

Related

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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